“silent quicksand”

silent quicksand was a poetry and art magazine at El Camino College in the early 70s. I don’t know how many issues came out before folks moved on and it folded, but I don’t think many. I have copies of issues # 2 and # 3. I had three poems appear in the Fall 1973 issue (# 3). When I told my old high school friend Tim at the time about it, he said there was no quicker way to obscurity than appearing in a college literary magazine. That was of course before blogging came along. In any case, I thought it was cool then, and I still do, that two of my poems shared a page with Stephen Jama, one of the ECC English instructors, who became for a time a friend and mentor.

Four poems from Silent Quicksand # 3

Below is an image of issue # 3 and below that an image of issue # 2:

silent quicksand # 3

silent quicksand # 2

I was reading, at the time, the Beat poets, Corso, Ferlinghetti, Philip Lamantia, and of course Ginsberg, and King of the Road Kerouac, and Gary Snyder, and I remember reading Diane Di Prima, and I read Henry Miller and Anais Nin and all along John Cage, and Whitman and William Carlos Williams, and, having started with folk music, I was now getting deeper into jazz, and I read “Blues People,” by LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka). Still other influences included the Rexroth translations, Hugh Kenner’s “The Pound Era,” Donald Hall’s “Contemporary American Poetry,” McLuhan and Norman O. Brown, and de Beauvoir and Sartre, and Camus. In seminars we still read Dos Passos, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Joyce and Beckett.

One night, I went with Jama up into Santa Monica to see a live production of Beckett’s “Endgame” at a small theatre, and another time we saw Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape” at a small troupe theatre in Hermosa Beach. I saw the humor in Beckett. I had a sense of humor about it all, the literary quicksand. That was all before my foray into what Han Shan called the red dust. It’s not easy keeping one’s sense of humor where the quicksand is so quiet and deep, but I had my sense of humor there, too, and I hope I still do:

amuse and abuse


“jazzskin” is an old, handmade chapbook (1973, 17 pages – click on photos):

"soakin up the bath" & "Lester Young founded the"

jazzskin info. page

The “poetry occurs” idea is a riff off John Cage, whose book “Silence” (1961) begins with “The Future of Music: Credo”: “Wherever we are,” Cage says, “what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating.” In his essay “Experimental Music,” Cage underscores the idea that noise is everywhere and attempts to control it create other hazards, but, he says, “One need not fear about the future of music. But this fearlessness only follows if, at the parting of the ways, where it is realized that sounds occur whether intended or not, one turns in the direction of those he does not intend.” When I was working on “jazzskin,” I felt, as I do now, the same about poetry that Cage felt about music. But Cage was not a jazz fan. He apparently thought jazz was about having a conversation, for which he preferred words.

"duet for snow balls and light bulbs"

jazzskin cover

Lester Young founded the

Related: Jazzskin, a post, and “JAZZSKIN” a poem (follow link or see “About” page).

“this yr”

“this yr” is a poem published in chapbook format in December, 1976, by Stephen Jama. 100 copies were printed. The chapbook consists of three sheets, 6&3/4” by 6”, folded and hand-sewn with red thread. The cover is slightly thicker than the inside pages, the inside paper a bit heavier than standard typing paper.

Jama was a popular instructor at El Camino College. The “this yr” shown in this post was a 1976 Christmas gift to me from Michael Mahon, also a friend of Jama’s, and a professor at Dominguez Hills. Another example of a Jama poem, this one in a kind of broadside, or broadsheet, format, “each sounding’s its answer,” is on-line as part of Jama’s Kent State library donations.

Chapbooks and broadsides were popular self-publishing formats in the 1960s and 70s, and were also popular formats used by small press, or alternative press, publishing, a popularity in part perhaps inspired by and certainly fueled by the folk revival, which spread songs around the country by word of mouth, in small coffee houses in cities and around campuses, and in small concert venues, and which, along with the Beat writers and musicians, helped popularize and rescue poetry from the scholiastics.

James Joyce’s Pomes Penyeach is another kind of chapbook, published originally by Shakespeare & Co. (Paris) in 1927. It was published again in 1966 by Faber and Faber. Shown in this post is a Faber reprint published in 1971 that I purchased used for $1.00 some time ago. The penny each is at least literal, for Joyce, who understood the difficulties of publishing, self-publishing, and quick-scrapping, calls to mind street hawkers selling fruit from carts.

While broadsheets are usually only one page, chapbooks contain more pages, but by definition not very many pages. The Faber book is only 47 pages, and includes a “Publishers’ Note”: “In order to make this volume more substantial and to show a wider range of James Joyce’s verse, there have been added to Pomes Penyeach the following…,” and three additional poems are added, including “The Holy Office” and “Gas from a Burner,” which each run a few pages, including footnotes. The original Pomes Penyeach contained only 13 poems.